Charles Dickens
Journalism and early novels
Literary style
Last years
Museums and festivals
Categories: biographybiography literatureliterature

Charles Dickens

1. Charles Dickens

February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870
• Dickens was born in Portsmouth,
Hampshire to John Dickens, a naval
pay clerk, and his wife Elizabeth
• When he was five, the family moved
to Chatham, Kent.
• When he was ten, the family
relocated to Camden Town in
• His early years were an idyllic time.
He thought himself then as a "very
small and not-over-particularlytaken-care-of boy".


• He talked later in life of his extremely strong
memories of childhood and his continuing
photographic memory of people and events
that helped bring his fiction to life.
• His family was moderately well-off, and he
received some education at a private school
but all that changed when his father, after
spending too much money entertaining and
retaining his social position, was imprisoned
for debt.


• At the age of twelve, Dickens was deemed
old enough to work and began working for
ten hours a day in Warren's boot-blacking
factory, located near the present Charing
Cross railway station.
• He spent his time pasting labels on the jars
of thick polish and earned six shillings a
week. With this money, he had to pay for
his lodging and help to support his family,
which was incarcerated in the nearby
Marshalsea debtors' prison.


• Dickens began work as a law clerk, a junior office
position with potential to become a lawyer.
• He did not like the law as a profession and after a
short time as a court stenographer he became a
journalist, reporting parliamentary debate and
traveling Britain by stagecoach to cover election
• His journalism formed his first collection of pieces
Sketches by Boz and he continued to contribute to
and edit journals for much of his life.
• In his early twenties he made a name for himself
with his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.


Although Dickens eventually attended the Wellington
House Academy in North London
In May 1827, Dickens began work, in the law office of
Ellis and Blackmore, as a clerk. It was a junior position,
but, as an articled clerk, Dickens would eventually qualify
for admission to the Bar, and it was there that he gleaned
his detailed knowledge of legal processes of the period.
At the age of seventeen, he became a court stenographer
and, in 1830, met his first love, Maria Beadnell. It is
believed that she was the model for the character Dora in
David Copperfield. Maria's parents disapproved of the
courtship and effectively ended the relationship by sending
her to school in Paris.

6. Journalism and early novels

• In 1834, Dickens became a political
journalist, reporting on parliamentary
debate and travelling across Britain by
stagecoach to cover election campaigns for
the Morning Chronicle.
• His journalism, in the form of sketches
which appeared in periodicals from 1833,
formed his first collection of pieces
Sketches by Boz which were published in
1836 and led to the serialization of his first
novel, The Pickwick Papers in March
• Also in 1836, Dickens accepted the job of
editor of Bentley's Miscellany.
• At the same time, his success as a novelist
continued, producing Oliver Twist (183739), Nicholas Nickleby(1838-39), The Old
Curiosity Shop and, finally, Barnaby
Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eightт as
part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series
(1840-41)—all published in monthly
instalments before being made into books.


• After living briefly abroad in Italy
(1844) and Switzerland (1846),
Dickens continued his success
• Dombey and Son (1848);
• David Copperfield (1849-50);
• Bleak House (1852-53);
• Hard Times (1854);
• Little Dorrit(1857);
• A Tale of Two Cities (1859);
• Great Expectations (1861).
• Dickens was also the publisher
and editor of, and a major
contributor to, the journals
Household Words (1850 – 1859)
and All the Year Round(18581870).

8. Literary style

Dickens's writing style is florid and
poetic, with a strong comic touch. His
satires of British aristocratic snobbery—
he calls one character the "Noble
Refrigerator"—are often popular. Many
of his character's names provide the
reader with a hint as to the roles played
in advancing the storyline, such as Mr.
Murdstone in the novel David
Copperfield, which is clearly a
combination of "murder" and stony
coldness. His literary style is also a
mixture of fantasy and realism.
Dickens loved the style of 18th century
gothic romance,although it had already
become a target for parody.

9. Last years

In 1868 his second American reading tour.
in New York, he gave 22 readings at Steinway
Hall between 9 December 1867 and 20 April
at Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims between 16
January and 21 January 1868.
Dickens boarded his ship to return to Britain on
23 April 1868, barely escaping a Federal Tax
Lien against the proceeds of his lecture tour.
During 1869 readings continued, in England,
Scotland, and Ireland, until at last he collapsed,
showing symptoms of mild stroke. Dickens's
final public readings took place in London in
He suffered another stroke on 8 June at Gad's
Hill, after a full day's work on Edwin Drood, and
five years to the day after the Staplehurst crash,
on 9 June 1870, he died at his home in Gad's Hill

10. Museums and festivals

There are museums and festivals celebrating Dickens's
life and works in many of the towns with which he was
The Charles Dickens Museum, in Doughty Street,
Holborn is the only one of Dickens's London homes to
survive. He lived there only two years but in that time
wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas
Nickleby. It contains a major collection of manuscripts,
original furniture and memorabilia.
Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth is
the house in which Dickens was born. It has been refurnished in the likely style of 1812 and contains
Dickens memorabilia.
The Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs is the
house of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the basis for Miss
Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. It is visible
across the bay from the original Bleak House (also a
museum until 2005) where David Copperfield was
written. The museum contains memorabilia, general
Victoriana and some of Dickens's letters. Broadstairs has
held a Dickens Festival annually since 1937.
The Charles Dickens Centre in Eastgate House,
Rochester, closed in 2004, but the garden containing the
author's Swiss chalet is still open.
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